When did you stop watching The Simpsons? I’m sure at some point you were watching it. Maybe even for a while. However, eventually a lot of Simpsons fans, even Simpsons lovers, stopped tuning it. The show got less good, it made them feel sad, and they gave up. I know a lot of people have stopped watching The Simpsons because I love The Simpsons and know a lot of people who also love it. I go to Simpsons bar trivia. People like to point out that they don’t watch the show anymore. In fact, they haven’t watch it in years. Our Simpsons trivia events only cover the first 12 seasons. The hosts call everything after that “Zombie Simpsons.”
When did I stop watching The Simpsons? Well…I never did. Actually, that’s not quite true. I stopped watching for a couple years in my teens. They had a couple of rough seasons in a row and I sort of tapped out. Eventually, though, I started catching the episodes I missed on rerun and laughed at a few of them and jumped back in. I have not stopped since. I have seen every Simpsons episode.
As such, as a long-time Simpsons fan who has watched it through good and bad, I am something of an authority on the quality of late-period Simpsons episodes. In my opinion, the best episode from after the “classic” run, let’s call it seasons one through 11, is the episode “All’s Far in Oven War.” The episode aired early in the 16th season, way back in 2004. Yes, we’ve reached a point with The Simpsons where an episode can be 16 years old but not be in the “classic” period of the show.
In the episode, Marge takes to baking and enters a baking competition. After being pushed around by her cutthroat fellow bakers, she decides to sink to their level, much to Lisa’s dismay. Can she right the ship before it’s too late? Meanwhile, Bart and Milhouse find Homer’s old “Playdude” issues, the show’s version of Playboy. However, Marge had cut all the “erotic nudes” out of the issues, so Bart and Milhouse don’t really get what it’s all about when they adopt a “Playdude lifestyle.”
The lesser late-period Simpsons episodes have cheesy plots, or they aren’t concerned about the characters. So many episodes will change the way Bart or Lisa act or behave for the sake of a story before flipping things back. Also, they just aren’t as funny. “All’s Fair in Oven War” doesn’t fall into any of those traps. The stories are totally sensible. The characters feel like the classic Simpsons we know and love. Oh, and it’s really funny. There are a handful of true laugh-out-loud jokes in “All’s Fair in Oven War.” It’s really just delightful. The 16th season of The Simpsons isn’t a particularly strong one, but it does have one standout episode. “All’s Far in Oven War” is possible a top-100 episode of the show, and certainly top 150. Bearing in mind there are almost 700 episodes at this point, that’s quite impressive.